All Payless ShoeSource sites in Kansas City area to close

by Chris Haxel, Kansas News Service

Topeka-based Payless ShoeSource is closing all 2,300 of its domestic retail stores, a company spokesperson confirmed to KCUR on Monday. About 1,200 retail stores outside the U.S. are not affected.

The news was first reported by Reuters on Friday. Sources told the news service the company plans to file for bankruptcy, less than two years after emerging from bankruptcy in 2017.

The company began liquidation sales at its American stores on Sunday. Online sales are also being eliminated.

“We expect all stores to remain open until at least the end of March and the majority will remain open until May,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

Payless ShoeSource currently operates 14 locations in the Kansas City area. (One of the locations is at The Legends Outlets in Kansas City, Kansas, near Penney’s. Another Payless Kansas City, Kansas, location at Wyandotte Plaza closed several years ago.)

Signs advertising sales of up to 40 percent off were taped to the window of a store at The Landing Mall in Kansas City on Monday morning. A store employee declined to comment.

The company was founded in 1956 in Topeka. After decades of growth, the company — like many mall-dependent retailers — struggled to compete with online retailers.

The company laid off hundreds of employees after closing a distribution center in Topeka in 2008.

Payless ShoeSource maintains a presence in that city but also began moving some corporate operations to Dallas in 2017. At least 350 Topeka employees have been laid off since 2017, according to a report in the Topeka Capital-Journal.

The company’s former headquarters building in Topeka was recently put up for auction, the newspaper reported.

Hedge fund Alden Global Capital was among a group of creditors that took ownership of Payless ShoeSource after it emerged from bankruptcy in 2017, Reuters reported. Alden Global Capital also owns Digital First Media, a company known for buying financially distressed newspapers, including the Denver Post and San Jose Mercury News, and slashing staff to boost profits.

Chris Haxel is a reporter for KCUR 89.3. Email him at chaxel@kcur.org, and follow him on Twitter @ChrisHaxel. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to kcur.org.

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